Senate Panel Approves New Bill Forcing Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 21, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Panel Backs New Bill Forcing Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 21
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — With President Bush having vetoed a second bill that would force taxpayers to finance embryonic stem cell research and the possibility that it can’t override the veto, senators who back the grisly science put funding language in a federal government appropriations bill.

Senators Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, and Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, inserted the language into the bill that funds the health, labor and education departments.

The Senate Appropriations Committee ultimately approved the legislation on a 26-3 vote and it next moves to the Senate floor where pro-life groups may call on lawmakers to oppose it because of the embryonic funding.

A vote isn’t expected there until July.

Unlike the S. 5 measure Bush vetoed on Wednesday, which funds all kinds of research involving embryonic stem cells, the two will seek to move up the president’s timetable for what embryonic stem cells qualify for federal funding.

When he announced his policy in August 2001, President Bush said he would fund research on older embryonic stem cells but not ones obtained after that date because human embryos would have to be destroyed to get them.

Harkin and Specter want to move the August 2001 date up to June 15, 2007, making it possible for all embryonic stem cells derived between those time periods eligible for federal funds.

This is not the best solution," Harkin said after the vote, according to the Denver Post. "But at least we’ll pick up a year or two until we get a new president."

The White House has not yet commented on this attempt at a compromise, but the Bush Administration would likely see it as an overturning of his policy and it may very well subject the bill to a veto.

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of National Right to Life, told the Harkin-Specter language would likely produce another veto.

"Such grandstanding won’t overturn the President’s pro-life policy, but it could result in the entire appropriations bill being vetoed," he explained.

Before the bill goes to the president, the House and Senate must iron out their different versions of the measure. With Democrats controlling any conference committee, the final version of the legislation will likely contain the embryonic funding language.

A veto would return the bill to Congress where lawmakers would need a two-thirds vote to overturn it.

In an effort to get more votes for the bill, the committee also added $4 million to promote embryo adoption, something pro-life groups and President Bush have touted as a more ethical alternative to killing days-old unborn children for their stem cells.